I Have Officially Become an African Woman

Today I awoke at 6 am and was unable to go back to sleep, so I got dressed, cleaned my hut and did some laundry all before breakfast.

After eating and packing a PB&J sandwich for lunch I walked 30 min by myself to Keminini to get a matatu to the junction. When you take public transportation here there are men who try to persuade (push) you to ride in their matatu, but you have to stand firm and insist on knowing the price before you get in, otherwise you might get the white person price.  The first guy who approached me wanted 40 Bob to the junction, hell no, its 50 Bob all the way to town and only 10 Bob to the junction. He took back the first offer and I road for 10.

Once we got to the junction I walked another 30 min to the primary school. Several motorbikes stopped and asked if I wanted a ride, but I waved them on. I don’t like motorbikes, plus I prefer to get the exercise. One thing I have noticed here is people dont just walk  for the sake of walking, they only walk if they have somewhere to go. So they think it is very strange that I actually like to walk, even when I have no where to go.

When I arrived at school everyone was asking “where were you last week”, “we missed you”, so I had to explain about not being able to come all this way in the rain and that Kristiana has gone to another program. Once all the welcome backs were over, the teachers decided I would teach STI education to class 8, instead of finishing up with the other half of 7th.

Since I had never taught class 8 I took a few minutes to introduce myself and learn a little about them.  At Kunya primary the oldest kid in class 8 was about 20, so I wanted to know the age range of the students in this class 8. I was shocked to discover that there was a ten year age gap between the youngest (13 years) and the oldest (23 years). The oldest student in grade 8 is what they call my age mate.

I am still amazed that after having taught 3 or 4 lessons at this primary school that the teachers who are uncomfortable with the subject I teach still come to class. In almost every lesson I have had to explain what “pulling out” is and oral sex and they laugh every time, often while the students barely snicker. Plus it makes me want to scream when I talk about using condoms and then they get up after and say “people your age should be abstaining, married couples should use condoms”.  Kenya has the 7th highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world and 23 year old grown men in class 8, you cant honestly tell me that he is not thinking about having sex. Clearly pushing “No sex before marriage” hasnt worked in reducing the HIV/AIDS rate, so lets try a new approach of teaching students how to put a condom on correctly if they are going to engage in sex before or during marriage.

When I finished my discussion on STI’s I opened it up for questions and many of the students were asking about HIV/AIDS, so the teachers asked if I could continue onto  HIV/AIDS  education even though that hadn’t been the plan. By the time I did the talk, answered questions and walked out of the classroom door I had taught for 3 hours straight.

I was supposed to teach another HIV/AIDS lesson at the secondary school at 3pm, so I planned to find a place to sit and eat my lunch. However it began to pour as soon as class was out, so the head teacher and deputy head teacher invited me in for lunch. I tried to explain to them that I had brought a packed lunch, but they wouldnt hear of me eating it. So I had rice, cabbage and beef while I talked about the differences between the education system in Kenya and that of the USA.

I learned a very important piece of information from the head teacher about why students and many adults don’t know world geography very well. Most of the students thought the US was in Europe and Kristiana had someone tell her Canada was in Asia. So apparently when they still followed the curriculum established by the British they learned world geography in primary, but now they only learn the geography of Africa and depending on the school students may never learn anything beyond that.

After a very interesting and informative lunch I walked over to the secondary school to see if my 3rd trip was the charm- it wasnt. Again the coordinating teacher was gone and he left no instruction for anyone, so I made the long trip home.

When I arrived at Pathfinder I heard the choir singing in the dining hall and went to observe. Upon conclusion of the lesson the teacher asked me how my swahili lessons were coming along. Okay I told him, I learned 30 new vocab words yesterday. Good he says. He then proceed to ask me if I was a tenor or an alto. I told him I havnt sang in a choir since 6th grade, so I wouldnt know. Dont worry he says we will figure it out and then you can sing this song in  swahili with the students on Friday for the parent meeting. I told him I would try.

Exhausted from the day, I went and had tea with Joshuas wife. She asked me about my day and I told her what I had done. She told me “you are a real African woman”, your skin is even turning black.”

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